In the limbo, it's how low can you go.
In the Subaru Forester Wilderness, it's how high can you go.
This new iteration of Subaru's popular crossover wagon has as much clearance as some 4WD SUVs and trucks -- which is why it can go some of the same places they can.
What It Is
The Forester a compact-sized crossover -- of which there are many, including similar-sized models such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Rogue. It is the only crossover in the class that offers as much airspace (9.2 inches) between its underthings and the pavement -- which accounts for why it is more likely to keep moving when the others get stuck.
It is also the only small crossover with a standard boxer engine -- a type of engine that's also a flat engine. The layout lowers the Soobie's center of gravity. The weight of the engine being equally distributed on either side of its centerline also increases its stability.
This makes it some things the others aren't -- which helps it stand out from all those others.
Prices start at $25,395 for the base trim, which includes all-wheel drive. In many other crossovers, it's an extra cost.
The new Wilderness trim, which stickers for $33,020, also comes standard with 9.2 inches of ground clearance (8.7 inches in other trims) as well as five wheels - including a full-size spare with a full-size tire on it. This one also has a higher (3,000 lb.) tow rating, a more aggressive 4.11 (vs. 3.7:1) final drive ratio, StarTex water-resistant seat covers, raised roof rails, underbody skid plates and LED fog lights, among other upgrades.
The Wilderness trim is the newest form of Forester, meant to make this already capable all-weather (and off-road-capable) crossover even more so.
More capability than other crossovers.
Attractive base price given what's included, especially the standard AWD.
What's Not So Good
Others in the class -- such as the Mazda CX-5 and the Nissan Rogue -- offer stronger engines.
All trims come standard with the same engine -- and transmission.
Other trims have half the rated towing capacity of the Wilderness trim.
Under The Hood
Choosing which engine/transmission/driveline to get in a new Forester is easy -- because Subaru has done that for you. All six trims come with the same 2.5-liter, 182 horsepower engine, paired with a CVT automatic and all-wheel drive.
The combination rates 26 mpg in city driving and 33 on the highway.
Most small crossovers aren't rated to pull very much, but the Forester can pull more than most ... if you buy the new Wilderness trim.
It carries a 3,000-pound maximum tow rating. This is twice the standard tow rating and twice the maximum-rated capacity of rivals such as the CR-V and Rogue, which both max out at 1,500 pounds.
The Mazda CX-5 is (once again) the Soobie's toughest rival. It comes standard with a 2,000-pound maximum tow rating, which is 500 pounds more than what comes standard with all version of the Forester except the Wilderness.
On The Road
It's more about where you can go off-road.
Also, whether to risk the road when it's underneath half a foot of freshly dumped snow. That's what this Soobie is all about -- especially the new Wilderness iteration, which has enough ground clearance to leave several inches of clearance between that half-foot of snow on the road and the underside of this intrepid little crossover.
It fits just the right shoes for such work, too. Seventeen-inch Geolandar all-terrain tires grab the terrain at all four corners. They do something else, too.
These tall sidewall tires -- 225/60s -- are meant to give and flex with terrain, and because of that, they also ride soft on the road. This gives the Wilderness what would once have been described as a luxury car ride. Today, luxury-sport cars have short-sidewall tires that are very stiff for that reason, and for just that reason ride like the sporty luxury cars they are.
It's weird -- and welcome -- to find out just how luxurious-riding this Subaru is.
At The Curb
Unlike other crossovers, the Forester doesn't look like them ... if you get the new Wilderness version. The knobby (and raised white letter, if you like) tires alone make it look unlike the others, on account of the unusually tall sidewalls and the amount of air gap between the tires and the wheel wells.
It almost looks lifted -- and, in fact, it is.
Other versions of the Forester have 8.7 inches of clearance -- still more than most other crossovers. But the Wilderness kicks that up to 9.2, and that's a difference you can see, especially with those tires.
Wilderness iterations of the Forester also get rubber-armor around the wheel wells and front and rear lower bumper areas, which of course are the areas most likely to get scuffed, if they were painted. Inside, the seats are armored against water; if you get wet, the seats won't soak it up.
Even the base $25,000-ish Forester offers poor weather/unpaved roads capability that approaches that of 4WD trucks and SUVs -- for thousands less than most of them cost. That's not counting the cost of feeding a truck or SUV these days.
The Bottom Line
Subaru touts the higher capability of the new Forester Wilderness, which it has. But the inside skinny is that it comes with more civility, too.
Eric's latest book, "Doomed: Good Cars Gone Wrong!" will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate, Inc.